F1 2014 Australian Grand Prix: Hamilton fires out warning

PUBLISHED: 15:25 07 March 2014 | UPDATED: 07:31 15 March 2014

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in testing in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in testing in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]

SEAN RAMSELL

The 2014 Formula One World Championship gets underway in Melbourne next week with the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, and Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton is looking to win the drivers' title for a second time.

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in testing in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in testing in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]

After a strong winter testing programme, the 29-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas racer from Hertfordshire will line-up for the season-opening race around the Albert Park circuit next Sunday (March 16).

The 2008 F1 world champion was fastest on the final day of testing in Bahrain earlier this month and will be one of the favourites to take the chequered flag in Australia.

Hamilton said: “The Australian Grand Prix is always an exciting race and the fans are fantastic. They love their motorsport, so it’s an event that every driver looks forward to.

“I’m excited about the new season, not just as a driver but as a fan. As a fan, you want to see overtaking throughout the field, you want to see different race winners, you want to see the championship go down to the wire... I hope that the changes for this year will make that happen.

"I think we’re as ready as we can be for Melbourne and I’m more fired up than ever."

Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton

“This is the year you need to watch Formula One.”

While the winter programme may have offered a glimpse of Formula One in 2014, Melbourne provides the acid test.

There have been a series of regulation changes during the winter, not least the switch to V6 Hybrid cars, but Mercedes’ power unit has been the most reliable during testing.

On the Silver Arrows’ preparations for the first race of the season, Hamilton said: “I think we’re as ready as we can be for Melbourne and I’m more fired up than ever.

"We want to bring both cars to the flag in the best possible position."

Totto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“With all the changes within the sport and the hard work that’s been going on within the team, I believe this can be our year to really show what we’re capable of.

“That’s not to take anything away from our opposition, who will be incredibly tough to beat as always, but I feel like I’m equipped with the tools I need to succeed. I can’t wait to get started.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg is also looking forward to the F1 curtain-raiser, with first practice on Friday, March 14.

The German said: “Melbourne is a fantastic city and Australia is an exciting country all round. It’s a great place to start the year and you can always have lots of fun here.

F1 2014 Bahrain testing – week two, day four

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes AMG) 1m33.278s, 70 laps.

2 Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1m33.987s, 108 laps.

3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1m34.280s, 74 laps.

4 Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 1m35.577s, 74 laps.

5 Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1m35.701s, 74 laps.

6 Adrian Sutil (Sauber) 1m36.467s, 91 laps.

7 Max Chilton (Marussia) 1m36.835s, 61 laps.

8 Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1m37.303s, 86 laps.

9 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m37.468s, 77 laps.

10 Jenson Button (McLaren) 1m38.111s, 22 laps.

11 Kamui Kobayashi (Caterham) 1m38.391s, 106 laps.

12 Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1m39.302s, 32 laps.

“This year, after completing the final test in Bahrain, I returned to the factory at Brackley for final preparations in the simulator and went straight on to Melbourne from there.”

Rosberg added: “Overall, I think our winter testing programme went better than expected. Having said that, the first Grand Prix is the first real opportunity to judge how well we have done against our competition.

“Pre-season doesn’t tell the full story, especially this year with the new regulations. I’m really looking forward to getting the season underway and can’t wait to be back in the car again.”

As widely demonstrated during pre-season, running a 2014 F1 car is a challenge in itself.

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in testing in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in testing in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]

Double that challenge in terms of providing both drivers with competitive, reliable machinery, and each team must be absolutely on the button in terms of preparing and running their cars efficiently and without error.

This is where experience within a team will come to the fore in Melbourne, with history predicting a high propensity for attrition.

Of the last 10 season-opening races, eight have been held at the Albert Park circuit and two in Bahrain, the venue used for two of the three 2014 pre-season tests.

Of these 10 Grands Prix, five have been affected by at least one safety car period. In that same time scale, there have been 62 occasions where a car has been declared as ‘not-classified’ in the race result.

Lewis Hamilton on track in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]Lewis Hamilton on track in Bahrain [Picture: Sean Ramsell]

Digging a little deeper into the figures, exactly half of these 62 were the result of a mechanical failure. Twelve of those 31 mechanical retirements were classed as engine (seven) or gearbox (five) failures – two of the focal areas in terms of reliability under the 2014 regulations.

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, expects his drivers to challenge for podiums in Australia, where reliability, as well as pure speed, will be crucial.

On the eve of the 2014 F1 season, he said: “The new regulations have been a massive challenge for everybody involved, and the team has been pushing flat out to get the car to where it is now as we approach the first race in Melbourne.

“While it is true that the quickest car with the quickest drivers will win, reliability will be a key factor.

“We want to bring both cars to the flag in the best possible position.

“We now face the ultimate reality check in the first race of this new era for Formula One.”

Wolff added: “The feeling within the team is not one of nerves, however. It is more a sense of relief to finally be unleashing our cars in race conditions.

“Everybody now just wants to get out there and see where we stand. Expectations are high, both internally and externally.

“Although we’re not quite where we want to be right now in terms of a complete package, I’m optimistic in that we’ve done everything possible to prepare for the challenges ahead.

“I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by the new cars: the noise, the speeds and ultimately the lap times. This is cutting-edge technology – and that’s exactly what Formula One stands for.”

Pre-season testing saw teams complete a combined mileage of 36,979km during 12 days of track time, an impressive 74 per cent of the total amassed during the winter of 2013 under the well-established V8 era.

A race weekend is, of course, an entirely different beast, but the principles remain the same.

Efficiency is the driving force behind the 2014 regulations, but the reliability of each and every component within the car will be crucial to allowing that efficiency – and in turn performance – to be maximised.

Hamilton, and the Silver Arrows team, will be hoping the Mercedes F1 W05 proves to be a world beater.

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